Thoughts on Battle Pass Value

Battle Passes are not really a new thing, however they have become more commonplace, particularly with games that are labeled as “free to play.” First, we should define what a “battle pass” is, in loose terminology at least. Some games will call this a subscription option, some will have some other sort of lore based name for it, but overall it ends up being a thing that coincides with a “season” of a game (lengths of which are determined by that game’s developer) and provides a way to earn more in-game loot for that particular title. For example, you’ll pay somewhere in the ballpark of $9.99-19.99 for access to a progression system that rewards various fluff items for the game. If you don’t pay the fee, you’ll still be able to unlock rewards by playing the game, but if you pay the fee, you’ll essentially get double the rewards (give or take).

My earliest experience with a system like this was with the MOBA SMITE. They had a system of adventures and things where if you paid a nominal fee, you’d get greater access to skins, loading screens, music themes, podiums and other fluff items that gave you that customized look that was far greater than those who were playing the game without spending any money. This has become the norm in games that are free to play — the company needs a way to monetize their game despite giving the base experience away for free. Skins and things that are not “pay to win” are generally favored over items that are only available for cash and adjust the power level of said customer who paid money over those who play for free  — thought it could be argued that this is the way it should be due to our capitalist nature as a country, but I digress.

In more recent years, I’ve actually participated in this sort of program with multiple titles. The newest game to introduce this sort of system was Apex Legends, where their battle pass opens up a slew of customization options that simply aren’t available when playing for free. To be fair, the game is pretty generous when it comes to currency needed to unlock new characters, along with crafting materials to make skins for characters and weapons. Where the exclusivity kicks in is with the loading screen and music theme customizations. Also, emotes that are only usable while dropping into the game. Some of the skins are “exclusive” as well, but I assume those will be craftable at some point. Whatever the case, there is a value proposition here that you’ll have to figure out for yourself. Do you see yourself wanting cool skins for your characters and guns? Are you tired of the normal theme music and want something else? Or can you deal with the fact that some people who are paying customers are getting something that you, the freeloader, is not getting as well? Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal to me. When a company is providing ethical (read: not pay to win) cosmetics in a cash shop to monetize the game I don’t have a problem with it. I also don’t have a problem throwing a few bucks at a game that I’ve gotten enjoyment out of, because companies would go under completely if no one paid for anything while playing their free to play game.

Another company that recently added this sort of system to their game was Supercell with Clash Royale. I wrote about their system called “Pass Royale” back when it first launched, and having run through that whole first season I can say that the rewards were well worth it for the $5 investment that was asked. I went ahead and paid the $5 again to play the second season with increased rewards as well. In this title, there have always been daily “crown chests” that required you to earn 10 crowns by any means necessary to unlock a chest with random rewards. That system still exists with the new Pass Royale, but if you are a paying customer, you’ll get essentially double the rewards. Instead of one legendary chest you’ll get two. You’ll also get “exclusive” emotes and tower skins, some of which were introduced solely to support this system. It still feels worth it in a game that you play regularly. I’d advise against purchase if you think you won’t play a game much throughout the course of it’s “season.”

And that’s what it comes down to. A personal assessment of whether or not you think the benefits are worth the cost. In nearly 100% of cases, these are free to play games that we are talking about, so it’s likely that you can still enjoy playing these games without spending a dime. You will be rewarded for spending money, but in most cases you won’t really benefit from these season passes unless you are regularly playing a game. This is due to the fact that most of these pass systems require you to play to unlock rewards, so I wouldn’t recommend paying unless its a game that you play regularly. In my case, I play Clash Royale daily so it was a no-brainer, especially for only $5. When it came to Apex Legends, I was more hesitant because I didn’t know if I’d make enough progress to meet a positive value, but my girlfriend ended up buying it for me and as such I have been playing almost daily just to make sure I get her money’s worth.

The choice is yours when it comes to purchasing these passes. I just thought I’d throw my experience out there in hopes that it helps someone make a decision. Happy gaming, all!

Thoughts on Hex

Hex Card Clash is a Playstation 4 port of the same game that has been kicking around on PC for a while. When it comes down to it, this feels very much like other Collectible Card Games that are on the market, and in particular this title feels very much like a digital version of Magic: The Gathering. The gameplay mechanics, the way the cards are designed, even the phases of each turn are more similar to MTG than any of the other CCGs that I’ve played (and I’ve played quite a few of them).

If you’ve played the Duels of the Planeswalkers titles that stretch back to 2012 or thereabouts, this will feel like the same game. It’s not a stripped down and simple version that depends on too much RNG like Hearthstone. It doesn’t have the differing lane mechanics that Elder Scrolls Legends came up with. And it’s not really comparable to any of the other CCGs I’ve played. It really does feel like MTG in digital form, so if you are like me and are still waiting for WotC’s newest iteration (MTG Arena) to release then this might fill that niche for the time being.

As I said, the cards are designed in a similar fashion and the turn sequences are literally identical to MTG. Keywords on the cards are different than MTG, but the function is the same. For instance, enters the battlefield triggers are called “Deploy.” “Quick Action” is akin to Instants. There are many of these types of mechanics that are identical but called something different. I have yet to see that many cards outside of the tutorial, which kept things basic, so I’m sure there is something here that sets the game apart, but I can’t help but feel that it’s still a good fit for MTG players that are looking for something new. It’s not Magic, but it will do.

Despite knowing that this is a CCG available on PC, I saw that it released for PS4 sometime recently and thought I’d give it a try. I haven’t really found a digital CCG that I’ve wanted to put time into, but so far this game feels like a good fit. It looks nice and it plays well. Despite using a controller to play, the controls were intuitive enough and I enjoyed what I’ve seen. I will report back with further thoughts once I’ve put some more time into it, but if you’re looking for a CCG to play on the console then this might be a good option for you. If nothing else it won’t cost you anything to check it out.

Magic Duels: Impressions

I’m sure there’s been points where I’ve mentioned my time spent with Magic: The Gathering, but since I’m going to spend this post giving my impressions of a game based on the original CCG, I figure it’s as good a time as any to detail my history with the IP.

Somewhere around fourth or fifth grade I started getting heavy into comic book collecting. This correlated with the collection of comic cards as well, and I spent most if not all of my allowance and other money I would come across on the hobby. At some point, while browsing through cards at a comic book store, I stumbled upon Magic: The Gathering. I bought a few packs, thinking that they were just some new set of collectible cards that I hadn’t heard of. Turns out, not only were these cards collectible, but also part of an elaborate game that I didn’t quite understand. Eventually I found a starter box, as the booster packs didn’t come with instructions. The small booklet packed with the starter box contained all I would need to know to play the game, but my young mind didn’t bother with learning the real rules. Me and a few friends made up our own rules and played with the cards. Ah, youth.

A few years later when I was in high school, I met some guys that were into the game, but already had massive collections. I had stopped collecting comics and cards at that point, but I did still have the small amount of cards I had picked up years prior. I started to talk with these guys and learned the nuances of the game. I started picking up more cards, and started trading. We used to spend our lunch break eating and playing games against each other. I amassed quite a range of cards from multiple sets and life was good for a time. Eventually I would put the game down again, and it wouldn’t be until a year or two after I graduated high school that I’d pick it back up again.

My two best friends at the time were susceptible to new ideas, and though they had both heard of the game before, neither had played it. I explained to them that they would have to put some money into the initial investment, but they could use my cards (I had enough for several decks) to see if they liked the game. This eventually lead to both of them buying some cards, along with one of them convincing their younger siblings to get involved as well. This lead to two headed giant games, or four player free-for-alls, complete with backstabbing and alliance forming. It was all good fun but eventually everyone grew tired of the game, and we moved on. I gave my cards to one of my friends and haven’t touched a physical copy in years. This makes me sad.

On a whim, I bought one of the Duels of the Planeswalker games on my PS3. I believe it was the 2013 version. Either way, it was intriguing enough but I didn’t like the business model, in which you bought the game but then had to work through it to earn cards, buy extra cards through DLC packs, and though you could play against others it didn’t feel like the experience I wanted. I had always heard about Magic Online in the past, but it was the same significant investment to make decks, and I had already spent that kind of money on real world cards. It also sounded buggy and inconsistent.

Finally, building upon the engine that was present for the Planeswalker games, there is a new iteration of the classic card game called Magic Duels: Origins. Taking what I liked about the older games but making it free to play and on a Hearthstone-like model, where you earn in-game cash you can use to buy packs of cards, and being able to build your own custom decks and play a story but also other players feels like the game I’ve been waiting for. I liked Hearthstone well enough, but Magic was always my card game of choice. This is a suitable replacement from what I can see so far.

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The game field is setup exactly like it was in the Duels of the Planeswalker games, with graveyards, draw piles, your health totals, hands and the field of play. Animations take care of combat between cards and opponents, and you can zoom in on any card that you want to check out, opponent’s included.

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The game wants to force funnel you into tutorials and the story mode, where you’ll earn coins and cards, and learn the basics of the game. More experienced players might want to skip the tutorials and jump right into deck building, and this is possible, but I decided to play through these opening stories anyway, because it’s been a while since I last played Magic.

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You can click on the store, and it will discourage you from skipping the recommended routes, but once inside you’ll get a starter box, that contains a large variety of cards for you to build decks with. However, some cards and coins are earned through playing the story so it’s recommended to do so first. I jumped around just so I could get screens to show you guys.

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There are several pages here, but I opened the starter box and it comes with a bunch of cool stuff. I didn’t even look through it all, but I’m sure building decks from these cards will work just fine. The store isn’t too crazy either:

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There are options for buying packs with the in game currency of “coins” and then you can buy coins with real world money. The model is exceptionally fair because rather than getting extra cards and having to disenchant them for dust ala Hearthstone, there is an intelligent pack system that keeps you from getting more cards than you can legally have in your collection. Tobold details this very well, and breaks down a full collection’s monetary price if you so choose to spend some real money on the game. I did spend real money on card packs in Hearthstone, but I think this time around I’m just going to farm for currency and build up my collection that way. I guess we’ll see if I can be competitive like that, and make the decision later.

So overall I think that this game is going to be better than Hearthstone in many ways. We’ll see how they continue down the path, if they add new cards regularly enough and if they try to add other over-priced fluff bullshit. It’s free to play on Steam right now, so if you’re interested go download it!


My daily run in Nuclear Throne today was super difficult. The RNG provided more open areas and a ton of enemies, whereas the first world is usually pretty void of creatures. As a result, you’ll get another short video!

#magicduels #magicthegathering #collectiblecardgame #freetoplay

Another MMO

But not only is it an MMO, its abbreviation is MMO.

Monster Madness Online is a title that is currently in an Alpha stage. And by Alpha, I mean there are only a couple of features from what the real game will be like for you to test out. But you can do that now, and do it for free, by going to the official site. I have looked around on the site and can’t find any sort of NDA, but that’s probably because this isn’t even a beta, and things are subject to change. The game is being developed by “the people who brought you Dungeon Defenders,” and that was a pretty cool game if I do say so myself. Unlike Dungeon Defenders, this isn’t a single or multiplayer only game, nor is it centered around tower defense mechanics. This is a shooter MMO, and all of the features are unclear at this point, but here’s what I do know:

The Alpha allows you to try out any of the four characters. I only played one, but as far as I can tell they all start with the same weapons, and no abilities are immediately available. Experience is accrued as you play, and levels give you points to spend on upgrading your character, though it seemed limited to health/stamina (think mana) and damage type upgrades, nothing particularly special. Gear was unlocked through leveling, but I assume this won’t be the case once you’re actually running kill ten rats quests. The Alpha only provides two game modes, one being a co-op survival, and the other a pvp capture the flag mode. I tried out both, and can see the appeal of both. I assume these modes will be nestled within the game, similar to battlegrounds in other massives.

One of the coolest features I enjoyed was the fact that you can zoom all the way in to first person mode, zoom out a little to a standard third person view, or even farther to a more diablo-esque 3/4 view. The latter was the hardest to control but could come in handy in certain situations. I’m wondering how everything will play out when the game’s other, more MMO-like portions are revealed. I’ve signed up for the beta, so I look forward to finding out for myself. Another one of the features mentioned is the ability to play the game in your browser, or even on smart phones, with cross-platform play. That’s something that hasn’t been tried before, and playing an MMO on a smart phone doesn’t seem very easy, but perhaps there’s something they know that I don’t. Either way if you are looking for something new to play that isn’t the norm, this might be something you’d be interested in. It’s going to be free to play, so it won’t hurt to see if you like it now.

Walking the Path of Exile

I’ve only written about Path of Exile once before (a quick search of my posts revealed as much) and the last time I had mentioned opting in for the closed beta, back in late 2011. At that point in time, I had only read little bits about the game, and hadn’t even played it yet. I never did get selected for that beta. Later in 2012 Grinding Gear Games had a “founder” option or a sort-of “kickstarter” type deal, where if you paid a particular price you would get access to the closed beta along with other perks. I opted to pay $10 and received the equivalent amount in “points” (the currency used for microtransactions in the store). I don’t remember what the other options gave, but I just wanted to see the game in action without having to wait for open beta. I actually just went and checked, and I have 100 points which is 4 more points than you can buy for $10 right now.

I tried out the game, and I liked what I had seen, but being closed beta, the character I was playing would be wiped when they prepared for the open beta, and I didn’t want to get too far along just to have to start over again. I started out as a Duelist, and only played for a few short hours before I shelved the game. Just the other day I was reading about the game, and realized that it is now in open beta, and there will be no more server wipes. So I decided it was time to get back into, starting last night. This time around, I decided that I wanted to play something a little different. In most fantasy-based games, I typically play a tank or a rogue-like class. I rarely play healers or casters, and since there isn’t a true healer class in this game, I went with the glass cannon “Witch.” Keeping with the glass cannon theme, I am building her with light armor a wand, and elemental spells. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game at all, here’s the Open Beta Trailer:

It shows a bit of what the Passive Skill Tree looks like, and man it’s huge. Definitely the largest I’ve seen in an action RPG, and allows for some deep customization. Being the Witch, I am starting off from the Intelligence postion, and branching upwards. Until you see it, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I can’t really describe to you the path in which I am taking. The other part of the game that allows for some awesome customization is the way the gems that socket into your items are actually the spells/abilities that you can cast/use. If you ever played Final Fantasy VII, it works much like materia. Socket a gem, get the ability, and as long as the gem is socketed, it gains experience as you do. There is a lot more to it than that, but I’m just throwing out some of the info in layman’s terms. Take a look at the skill tree here.

The game is completely free to play, and from what I’ve seen there is absolutely no “pay to win” scenario. Everything in the store is something you can go without. The developers even said that they are strictly against microtransactions becoming pay to win. But because it is free to play and open to anyone right now, that means if you’re interested, you can check it out right now. I’m pretty cheap, so when it comes to free games, why not?

Graphically, PoE stands up to its competitors. I can’t speak about Diablo III, because I have yet to play it. I have played Torchlight II however, and it’s cheesy graphics pale in comparison. I don’t have a top end machine, but it runs just fine, and looks pretty to boot. I imagine on a better rig it would look downright beautiful. I prefer the darker tone to the story line and how that is represented graphically. The lore, the systems, everything just makes games like Torchlight seem as if they were made for children. The devs said it best:

We’re sick of the recent trend towards bright, cartoony RPGs. The art style we chose for Path of Exile is dark, gritty and realistic. Wraeclast is terrifying, and we’ve tried hard to do it justice.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game thus far, but already I can tell it’s one that will suck me in. The level of depth still amazes me. More on this game to come in the near future.